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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > October 2016 > Books in brief

Books in brief

The Wealth of Humans

by Ryan Avent (Penguin, £25)

The world of work is changing but society and politics have yet to adapt. Rapid economic and technological change will drive political conflict in the coming generation. That’s the starting point of Ryan Avent’s

The Wealth of Humans, which maps out the coming transformations and offers a guide to building more equitable social institutions.

Avent argues that the addition of a billion new workers to the global workforce in the coming decades at a time when digital technology is automating more jobs will cause something economists usually agree can’t happen: a labour glut. For the many the choice will be simple: work for less or don’t work at all. He compares the coming changes to the industrial revolution: a similar period of aggregate economic progress marked by intensive distributional conflict.

The result is a book that feels both optimistic in its belief that technology can cure many basic human wants and its vision of a more inclusive economic model, but at times is depressing in its view of the suffering and unemployment it will take to reach this state.

Where Avent is perhaps weakest is on the mechanics of political change. While he convincingly argues that the current status quo is unsustainable, such situations have a habit of lasting for a long time.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s October issue: Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz tells our new Editor Tom Clark why globalisation has made him more radical. Rachel Holmes asks whether more women leaders really help women. Five hundred years on, what does Thomas More’s “Utopia” tells us about political idealism. And Tristram Hunt on why Labour needs another Clement Attlee. Also in this issue: David Runciman on why more members isn’t always a good thing for a political party. Will Self on why we’re all turning into robots. Your handy graphic guide to Brexit. Plus: David Willetts on what Theresa May’s industrial strategy should look like. And Kenneth S Rogoff argues we should abolish cash.
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